Pairing/Characters: Anne Steele/Alonna Gunn

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel belong to Joss Whedon and company.

Prompts: Written for femaslash_minis for brutti_ma_buoni who wanted the pairing and who provided the following prompts: welcome to LA, shoulder to shoulder. I know that you didn't really want a pre-BtVS Season Three setting but I had a hard time writing about Anne's first time in LA without it being pre-Season Three.

Notes: This spans just prior to 3x01 "Anne" and the aftermaths of the event of that episode.

She's not quite sure who she is anymore. She's certainly not Joan or Sister Sunshine but she's still Chantarelle, a hopeless vampire wannabe loser. When she steps off the bus, she pulls her duffle bag close and feels overwhelmed. She might have been over her head back in Sunnydale but she felt confident in the small town, LA is enormous and she's terrified of everything.

Still she squares her shoulders and walks away from the bus as if she knows what she's doing. Night falls surprisingly fast or perhaps it's more a case of she's been aimlessly wandering for hours, catching a bus every now and then, trying to find a place to stay. However everything's way out of her price range and no one seems interested in hiring a runaway.

She ends up in a diner that's clearly seen better days and she's trying to figure out what she can eat that will still leave her with enough money to maybe find a cheap motel room. When she had left Sunnydale, she had thought the money she had would be enough, but she hadn't taken into account just how unfriendly LA was or how expensive it was either. She decides on a cup of coffee and a plate of fries. She can probably nurse both along for a few hours and then maybe figure out what to do next.

Chantarelle stares out the window and watches as night falls over LA. It turns a grungy part of town pretty as the night hides the dirt and grime, while the area lights up with radiant neon signs and the lights of the cars that go speeding by. She doesn't notice when someone slides into the booth across from her at first.

"Hey."

She turns and faces the girl sitting across from her.

"Hello."

"You're new around here, aren't you?"

"Yeah, so?"

"Well you just look rather out of place."

"So?"

"Just saying is all."

The girl reaches out and snatches a fry off of Chantarelle's plate and then makes a face at the taste of it.

"These are cold."

"They weren't very good."

"Nothing here is what I'd call good. Anyhow I should be going."

Chantarelle watches as the girl gets up and leaves the diner. She decides that she's probably spent too long there anyhow so she pulls out a few crumpled bills and leaves them on the tabletop before she grabs her bag and take off. Once she's outside and the cool air hits her skin, she's left with the realization that she has no where to go. No one to call on, no place to call home, even if it's only temporary. Still, she heads in the direction where she thinks she saw a youth center. At the very least, she might find a bed for the night before having to hit the streets again.

She doesn't make it far before she's dragged into an alley and water is splashed in her face.

"What the hell?" Chantarelle curses as she tries to push her attacker off her.

The fight seems to go out of the girl from the diner and Chantarelle manages to pin her against the wall of the building behind her.

"What is your problem?"

"Nothing, I just thought that, well never mind what I thought. I clearly made a mistake."

"No tell me what that was all about," Chantarelle demands.

"You wouldn't believe me if I did."

"Try me."

"Fine, you wanna know, I thought you were a vampire."

Chantarelle's shocked and it's what allows the smaller girl to push her away and she stumbles backward. She had somehow managed to convince herself that the Lonely Ones were simply people who wanted to be vampires, that they weren't really vampires, that they couldn't be vampires. Yet this girl with her determination brings it home to her that vampires are very real.

"I don't think it's funny at all," Chantarelle quietly says.

"You don't?"

"No."

It wasn't quite the welcome that she'd wanted when she first came to LA but it could have been worse. She and Alonna become friends, they're always together, they find a cheap little room that they call home and at night, Chantarelle plays the bait while Alonna hunts vampires. And Chantarelle thinks that things might be improving and that she might have a future in LA.

Her favourite time of day is dawn when she and Alonna lay side by side on their mattress, their shoulders pressed together and it feels like something's developing between the two of them. Chanterelle's not sure what to call it because she's never really liked a girl that way before but Alonna is everything that she wishes she could be: smart, sexy and strong.

Sometimes in the early mornings, when the radio is playing old songs that her mother used to listen to, Chantarelle thinks that maybe she might work up the courage to shift ever so slightly until she can easily press a kiss against the curve of Alonna's shoulder, yet she's afraid that if she does, Alonna will leave her. And she doesn't want that, not when she's gotten used to being Chantarelle again and she likes who she's becoming.

Chantarelle's noticed that things with Alonna are different, she can't quite put her finger on it but the other girl seems more distant, more preoccupied with something else and Chantarelle knows that she's losing Alonna before she ever had a chance to win her. She decides that she's going to take things into her own hands, if only to push the issue.

That night, she plays the victim once more and lures some vampire into a dark and dirty alleyway. For a moment, she's afraid because she's not sure if Alonna had noticed in the club when she had left. The vampire presses her up against the wall and the scent of garbage and decay almost suffocates her. Before she can protest, the vampire is leaning over and pressing it's damp mouth against her neck. She can feel the pressure of it's sharp fangs pressing down on her throat when it suddenly burst into flames and for a few moments she's coughing.

Alonna's standing there with a smirk on her lips. And Chantarelle throws her arms around the slender girl and kisses her. She had thought she was going to die and it seems natural to kiss Alonna. For one brief, glorious moment Alonna responds and Chantarelle finds herself pressed up against the wall again, with Alonna's mouth pressed against her and then it's over. Alonna looks at her and runs a hand through her hair.

"Look this has been real nice and all but it's gotta end."

"What? Why?"

"My brother's coming home from the hospital tomorrow and if I am not there, he'll get mad."

"But we can still be together, I mean we don't have to stop being friends do we?"

"My brother's got a crew that hunts vampires and I'm a part of it."

"Fine, you have to do what you have to do."

Chantarelle doesn't even try to fight with her. She doesn't even try to ask to be a part of it. There's no point. She's just Alonna's secret just like her brother and his crew were a secret to her. What they had was nice while it lasted but she knows nothing last forever so when they get back to their place, she starts to pack up her few things.

"Look you don't have to leave tonight ,it's just I wanted you to know that this isn't permanent," Alonna tells her.

"I'd rather leave tonight, if it's all said and done. There's no point in hanging around and pretending that this is going to last."

"Chantarelle don't be like this."

"Don't," Chantarelle says, "I've got options that I've got to consider."

She somehow manages to ignore the hurt look on Alonna's face and she somehow manages to not cry when she leaves their room. Instead she takes herself to a diner three blocks away where a boy had hit on her earlier in the week. Maybe she can start anew, find someone else who might love her.

She stares at herself in the mirror and she's not sure if she likes her reflection. To be honest, she's not even sure if the person in the mirror is actually her. She can't remember who she is anymore. She's been so many different people: Joan, Sister Sunshine, Chantarelle and Lily. And now she's Anne.

"Hello I am Anne."

The words fall a little flat. She had genuinely liked being Lily. But in the end, Lily was just another victim and she refuses to be a victim anymore. It's time she grows up and stops following other people (and monsters too.)

"Hi I am Anne."

There's something missing. She's not quite sure what it is but right now she needs to get to work. The first step to becoming a stronger person is having a job instead of just drifting and relying on someone else to take care of. Thankfully the uniform that Buffy had left behind first her. The polyester makes her skin itch but it's a small price to pay for to take control of her life.

When she gets to the diner, the woman there takes one look at her and shrugs her shoulders at her before she tells her to get to work. There's no real training at all, instead she does her best to learn the ropes as she goes about her days. At the end of her eight hour shift, she collapses into a booth with a cup of coffee and a plate of lukewarm food. This time when Alonna slides into the booth beside her, Anne is more aware of the situation.

"Alonna."

"Chantarelle."

"It's Anne actually, Anne Steele."

"Alright, I am still Alonna."

"Whatever," Anne says as she bites into her hamburger.

"Look I tried to find you after that night but I couldn't."

"I didn't want to be found."

"Yet here you are again."

"Here I am again."

"I am sorry," Alonna says. "I didn't think that my brother would get what we had."

"It doesn't matter anymore."

"Yeah it does. I missed you."

Anne sighs and tries to think if she had missed Alonna at all during the five months since she had last seen her. And the more she thinks about, the more she realizes that she had. It had been easy to convince herself that Ricky was everything that she had wanted but now she's not too sure. At least with Alonna, she had been helping to take care of herself, she wasn't relying on someone to take care of her.

"So I missed you, what do you want?" Anne asks, hating the way her voice sounds.

"I don't know."

"Do you want to go back to the way it was before?"

"No, I am still with hanging out my brother and his crew."

"So I am not welcomed."

"It's not like that."

"Then how about you tell me what it's like."

"Chantarelle, please, why do you have to make this so hard?"

"I told you that my name is Anne."

"Fine, Anne, why do you have to make this so hard?"

"Maybe because I don't want to be your dirty little secret. Maybe I don't want to play the victim all of the time while you play the hero. Maybe just once, I'd like someone to want me for me and not for what I can be."

"Can you give me any of that?"

Alonna hangs her head and Anne knows that she can't.

"Let's not waste your time or mine. What we had was really nice, and I wouldn't say no if you wanted to come back to my place tonight, but that's all it is. And I think that neither of us would be really happy with that."

"You're probably right."

This time it's Anne who walks away, with her head held up high and for once she actually feels confident. When Alonna catches up to her on the sidewalk, Anne feels a rush of pleasure that Alonna had actually come after her. She doesn't think anyone had actually ever done that before.

"Maybe one night together won't be so bad."

Anne sighs but she relents. She wants this just as much as Alonna does. So she takes her to her cheap room and when Alonna pulls her down on the bed, she doesn't fight. They don't do much of anything other than kiss and just lay beside one another, breathless at times from their kisses and caresses. Anne's not stupid enough to think that Alonna will stay, for whatever reason she's here tonight and that's all that matters. She lets herself have the illusion of something more when she knows that it won't be anything more than this.

When dawn finally arrives, she watches as Alonna washes her face in the bathroom and straightens her clothes and hair. She wants to beg her to stay but Anne won't play the victim, she won't beg for something that she knows that she can't have and at the end of the day, she doesn't think that trying to be a Slayer or hunter or whatever it is that Alonna is will give her the satisfaction that working a full eight hours in the diner had given her.

"Look this doesn't have to be goodbye."

"You going to tell your brother about us?" Anne asks.

"I don't know, you don't get Charles, he's so protective."

"No I don't get that but don't you think he deserves the truth."

"I don't even know what we are."

"Well when you figure that out, look me up."

Alonna sits down beside her on the bed.

"And how am I going to find you? Are you going to have a new name?"

"No, this one is going to stick this time."

"Fine, give me sometime to talk to him."

"Don't take forever because I might not wait that long."

Alonna leans over and kisses her before she walks out of Anne's life again and Anne's not sure if it was a goodbye kiss or a promise of something more. She hopes that it's a promise.

((END))